The Real Deal Part Two: Heavyweight

Updated: Aug 6, 2019

Evander Holyfield

Chasing Tyson

After beating Carlos De Leon in April 1988 to become undisputed cruiserweight champion, Evander Holyfield put on twelve pounds and stepped up to the heavyweight division. His first opponent was James 'Quick' Tllis. The bout took place on 16th July 1988 in Las Vegas. Tillis' first loss came in a WBA heavyweight title challenge to Mike Weaver, losing a fifteen round unanimous decision in October 1981.

He suffered his second loss to future WBC champion Pinklon Thomas, losing in the eighth round in August 1982. He was stopped in the same round three months later by Greg Page in a USBA heavyweight title match. Four wins got him a shot at the vacant NABF championship against Tim Witherspoon. The bout took place on 23 September 1983. Witherspoon wasted no time in picking up the vacant belt, needing only two-minutes and 16 seconds of the very first round. He won another four fights, but dropped a ten round unanimous decision to Carl Williams.

Tillis beat Bashir Wadud, but went on a four fight defeat spree, all by ten round unanimous decisions against Marvis Frazier, Gerry Coetzee, Tyrell Biggs and Mike Tyson. Though Tyson floored him in the fourth round, Tillis got up and became the first man to take him the distance in twenty contests.

Nailing Tillis with a right

He scored wins over Mark Young and Art Terry, but travelled to Sydney and lost a ten round decision to the come-backing Joe Bugner. Winning two and drawing one he lost again to Mike Williams in the eighth round. A fifth round stoppage win over debutant Ronnie Douglas got him a fight in London against Frank Bruno in March 1987. Bruno was last in the ring eight months previously where he lost to Tim Witherspoon in the eleventh round for the WBA belt. Tillis was a bloody mess and stopped in the fifth round. He was back on the road again, losing his next bout by a tenth and final round TKO in South Africa to Johnny Du Plooy.

Tillis did manage to get two wins under his belt before the Holyfield contest, brining his record to 38-13-1 (29 KO's). Holyfield used his speed and jab to take the opening round. Even though The Real Deal was at his heaviest ever at 202 lbs, he still looked small against Tillis' eight pound weight advantage.

Holyfield's speed in round two was a problem for James 'Quick' Tillis, who got his nickname from knocking out his first twelve opponents quickly. The heavyweight debutant unleashed a barrage of punches towards the end of the round, that had his opponent covering up. Holyfield nailed him with hard rights and as the fight got into Holyfield's ring corner there was some afters when the bell rang, with Richard Steele having to separate both boxer's, restraining Holyfield, as Lou Duva held Tillis, which provoked a reaction from Tillis' trainer Beau Williford. Steele then had to intervene between the two trainers, as the two fighters hugged each other as a mark of respect.

Tillis started the third round aggressively, but Holyfield's speed and ring generalship took control as he finished the stanza landing his big rights again, which had Tillis holding and covering up. The fourth round went the same as the previous three, Tillis wasn't offering much in an attacking capacity, as Holyfield's hand speed and reflexes piled up the points advantage.

Again in the fifth Tillis was in survival mode, with Holyfield picking up the pace and getting through with some fast, meaty shots. Towards the end of the round Tillis was on the verge of getting dropped, but managed to hear the bell. He sat in his corner shaking his head, with the referee and then the ringside doctor joining him, with Tillis confirming he had had enough.

Holyfield improved to 19-0, (14 knockouts) scoring his seventh kayo in a row. "It was not my best performance, but I got the job done," Holyfield said after the match. "Weight wasn't a big issue. I wanted to go in confident and bring some strength."

"He is a great fighter," Tillis commented. "Evander is faster than Tyson, he has very good punching power."

Tillis continued to box into the ninety's and the new century. He had his last contest, losing by a ninth round TKO to Rob Calloway on 13th April 2001 and retired with a 42-22-1-1 (31 KO's) resume.

Evander Holyfield next stepped into the ring on 09th December 1988, gaining another eight